Blog

February 13, 2022

Sin Doesn’t Come First-We Get it Backwards!

Sin doesn’t come first- we get it backwards! This past Sunday’s Gospel was St. Luke’s account of Simon’s-he who would become Peter- first encounter with Christ. St. Luke provides many details. So many in fact, that it’s easy to place ourselves there. And because of that, to write about witnessing Peter’s catch. But there’s even more here! With his customary precision and clarity, Bishop Baron makes plain what I’d missed before: sin doesn’t come first-we get it backwards. Axiomatic to the spiritual life- to each of our spiritual lives- is “Invasion of Grace.” A wholly splendid phrase to decsribe that […]
February 6, 2022

Leave Room for the Wrath: Hold Fast to Patience

Leave room for the wrath Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do notcurse them. If possible, on your part, live at peace withall. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room forthe wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I willrepay, says the Lord.” Rather, “if your enemy is hungry,feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon hishead.” Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evilwith good. The words are St. Paul’s from his Letter to the Roman Christian church. One that he […]
January 30, 2022

Depression and The New Science of Spirituality

Depression and the new science of sprituality “I don’t believe depression exists- instead, it’s a loss of energy. If you’re depressed but hear a fire alarm, just like anyone else, your sympathetic system will kick in. You’ll find plenty of energy to run.” After twenty-five years of counseling ex-combat vets John had plenty of experience with PTSD and its oft associated partner, depression. Because of both personal and professional experiences, his observation rang radically true for me. Not long afterward, John introduced me to his clinical supervisor, Dr. Weiner, a staff psychologist at Clark University in Worcester Massachusetts. John had […]
January 23, 2022

Do We See What is There or What We expect to See?

Do we see what is there or what we expect to see? All too frequently, our ‘vision’ is clouded-even blinded by our biases, predudices and preconceptions of what is before us. In other words, we see what we expect to see. That fact is one of the primary causes of human error- whether medical error and negligence, pilot error or wrongful conviction. True because we unconsciously form causal connections based upon single events. And our senses dull as we view the familiar and ordinary. At times, so completely that we are blinded to the extraordinary. Our perception of the world […]
January 16, 2022

You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore to decide to be happy

You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore to decide to be happy Her name was Jane Marczewski (Nightbirde.) And she became known when she appeared on America’s Got Talent to sing her song, “It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok”. After performing a song which left the judges weepy and speechless, Cowell finally asked the thirty-year-old Jane how she could do this: make a song out of a disease which was killing her? Her reply? “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore to decide to be happy.” Cowell, understandably, was dumbstruck. And then reacted by giving Jane the “Golden […]
January 9, 2022

Thinking, yet again, about the Rule of Benedict

Thinking, yet again, about the Rule of Benedict. The Prologue of the Rule of Benedict is some of the most lryical, lush and arresting prose ever written. These words from the 5th century summon, urge and admonish with utmost delicacy. L I S T E N carefully, my child,to your master’s precepts,and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20).Receive willingly and carry out effectivelyyour loving father’s advice,that by the labor of obedienceyou may return to Himfrom whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience. To you, therefore, my words are now addressed,whoever you may be,who are renouncing your […]
January 2, 2022

Football as Metaphor: American Underdog

Football as metaphor: American Underdog Before I get to my subject of football as metaphor: American Underdog, some background about football and me may be useful- especially if football isn’t comprehensible to you. So, if you’ll permit a rollback in time, the following is excerpted from an article called 9 Lessons Tom Brady has taught me: “It was late September 30, 2001, and my new husband insisted I watch the Playoffs between his beloved Patriots and Oakland. We were living in Connecticut, cold, snowy Connecticut. I’d decided to leave my career in academic medicine where I’d built a national reputation […]
December 26, 2021

The Manger: Lessons from King Ahaz

The manger: Lessons from King Ahaz If the name of Ahaz rings a bell, it’s because we hear it twice at this time of year: In the daily liturgy of Friday, December 17th in the genealogy of Jesus Christ: “…Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah…” That so unbelievably colorful and earthy lineage of Abraham and King David: the Lord’s family tree. And then a more detailed reading about the Israeli King Ahaz this past Monday: The LORD spoke to Ahaz:Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God;    let it be deep as the nether world, […]
December 19, 2021

What Should We Do?

“What should we do?” At last Sunday’s mass, we heard the cries of the people inflamed by the words of the Baptizer. On fire with the truth he had incited in their hearts, they cried, “What should we do?” John the Baptist said to them in reply,“Whoever has two cloaksshould share with the person who has none.And whoever has food should do likewise…. Now the people were filled with expectation,and all were asking in their heartswhether John might be the Christ.John answered them all, saying,“I am baptizing you with water,but one mightier than I is coming…” Discriminating among all the […]
December 12, 2021

Reflections on George Bailey and It’s A Wonderful Life

Once Again: Reflections On George Bailey and It’s A Wonderful Life. This past Wednesday evening, John and I tuned into It’s A Wonderful Life . Although I wrote a piece on this film back in August, seeing it again impels another. Most of the film is composed of Clarence, George Bailey’s guardian angel, being schooled in George’s life. The film opens with a heavenly conversation among angels deliberatng about who shall be chosen to go to earth to save George Bailey: Senior Angel: [voice-over] Hello Joseph, trouble? Joseph – Angel: [voice-over] Looks like we’ll have to send someone down. There […]
December 5, 2021

Advent: Make It About The Third Coming

Advent: Make It About The third coming. Advent, the season which begins each Sunday following the Feast of Christ, King of the Universe and the shortest of our liturgical seasons, is jam-packed with opportunites. Specifically a coming of the Lord not talked about. One that is personal and must be sought. Although I’ve read St. Bernard’s sermon countless times in the Divine Liturgy, until now, his words did not penetrate. But this week, this excerpt from one of the saint’s sermons called The Word of the Lord will come to us, phrases like “middle coming in spirit,” the “hidden coming” […]
November 28, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving: A Republic If You Can Keep It.

Happy Thanksgiving: A Republic if you can keep it. It was exactly 400 years ago, in November of 1621, that something happened-some type of meal took place- between the English settlers and the Massasoit and others of the Wampanoag settlement of native Americans. The details of that shared meal in what would become Plymouth Massachusetts are fodder for contention and a variety of opinion. That fact has done little to unravel this uniquely American idea of annually giving thanks to our sovereign God-one that has persisted for four centuries. The pivotol role of the Indian Squanto or Tisquantum, in the […]
November 14, 2021

Holiness Can’t Be Taught

Holiness can’t be taught At a daily mass a few weeks ago, the celebrant spoke about a sentinal conversation while in the seminary. Fr. David recalled a conversation with a friend and seminarian who was two years ahead of him. The upperclassman had just returned from several months of pastoral formation with a pastor at a local church. “How was it?” Fr. David Allen asked his friend. “Interesting, I enjoyed it.” “Did anything happen that surprised you?” “Yes, the parishioners at the church kept asking me how I’d gotten to be so holy, so content with silence. “What did I […]
November 7, 2021

Catholics and Bonhoeffer’s Cheap Grace

Catholics and Bonhoeffer’s cheap grace Because I am outspoken about being Catholic, in the early years following my conversion, I frequently entered into conversation with those who no longer attend Mass. Almost always, the first few reasons were ideologic: “I disagree with the Church on abortion, birth control, homosexuality, and  the church’s refusal to ordain women as priests”  tended to head the list. Anne Rice enthusiastically and publically returned to Catholicism and then  left again because of the same list. But things changed in 2016. And even more in 2020. Suddenly, Anne Rice’s objections to Catholicism were legitimized. Including even […]
October 31, 2021

The Cities of Sin: the Gates of Hell?

The cities of sin: the gates of Hell? A most peculiar title, isn’t it? It’s language is disquieting, even frightening, more terrfying even than Covid19 and its endless vaccines and most assuredly anti-woke. Sin… Hell… The Christian liturgical reading for last Sunday, October 24th was about the blind beggar Bartimeus. It’s one that always reaches out and grabs me. Bartimeus is the blind man sitting by the Jericho gate who annoys everyone with his increasingly loud cries begging “Jesus, have pity on me.” Bartimeus ignores all the voices who try to silence him and calls out even louder, “Jesus, have […]
October 24, 2021

For Such a Time As This- Esther’s Song

For such a time as this (Esther’s Song) Until I met and became friends with Linda Hardy, I’d never heard of Marty Goetz. But once she told me about his music- the psalms put to the music in his head, I listened to many of them, often more than a few times. One day, while discussing our mutual vocations, I told Linda that I was working on the story of Esther. Later that day she texted me this glorious song by Marty and his daughter Misha. Scroll back up and listen to Marty and Misha sing, For Such a Time […]
October 17, 2021

Never Forget Our Friends in Heaven

Never forget our friends in heaven Upon conversion to Catholic Christianity, it was if I’d landed in another universe, one filled with women I did not recognize and could not relate to. I met joyous moms with five, seven, ten kids who seemed filled with light, life and children. Women who continued their pregnancy through to the birth of a child she knew would live only hours or days. In a word, saints. Or so they seemed to me. Too far away for friendship-even conversation…unreachable. But after I read about a “conversation” between St. Teresa of Avila and Christ about the […]
October 10, 2021

In the Belly of the Whale: Jonah, The Reluctant Prophet

In the Belly of the Whale: Jonah, The Reluctant Prophet. We’ve all been there. Alone. In the dark. Terrified. In the belly of the whale: Jonah, the reluctant prophet. Just four chapters long, the book of Jonah seems at first to be just another fantastic Bible story. Surely a wild tale, of course it’s allegory, right? And yet, Jesus Himself speaks about Jonah, calling him an “early preacher!” A fact that is both consoling and terrifying- I’ll return to this comment in a bit, first, some background. 38 Then some of the teachers of the Law and the proud religious law-keepers […]
October 3, 2021

Sin Is Not In My Lexicon, Dear Friend

Sin is not in my lexicon, dear friend Modern woman and her psyche Sin is not in my lexicon, dear friend—I do what’s good, defined my way. The end. No sense of sin? Friend, then how do you knowthe right, the wrong, the which-way-to-go? Honey, I simply do what I think right:I never harm, I give no spit, no fight. Darling, how do you know your “right” is right?Which one authority supports this might? Authority? Why ask me that? My mightis right! My kindness clearly guides my sight. What about consequence, sorrow, remorse?Sacrifices, mercy, and love, full course. Love? You […]
September 26, 2021

Take the Snakes Away!

Take the snakes away! The reading for the September 14th celebration of the Triumph of the Cross takes us back to the nation of Israel’s escape from 400 years of slavery in Egypt to a forty-year desert journey. Complaining. Again. Not noticing the fact that their clothes and sandals are not wearing out. Or remembering how they walked through the sea with walls of water on each side. Or that water appears out of a rock when needed by them and their livestock. More and more, these readings about the ancient Israelites are like looking into a mirror which reveals […]
September 19, 2021

Ode to Hope: Todd Beamer, Pope John Paul and Peter

Ode to Hope: Todd Beamer, Pope John Paul and Peter What could a twenty-first century computer salesman, former pope, now saint and Peter, the first pope, share? What could men living millenia apart, varied cultures and relgious backgrounds have in common? Especially an ode to hope: Todd Beamer, Pope John Paul and Peter? Indeed. Do you remember Todd Beamer? His then pregnant wife Lisa? Here’s a hint. Todd’s last words ‘Let’s roll’ traveled the world. And now, upon reflecting on them twenty years later, we stop. Still. To wonder, “What would we have done?” Todd Beamer was the thirty-two-year-old Oracle […]
January 21, 2018

Darkest Hour-Movie, Author Interview

  Author interviews, why do them? I read they are an excellent marketing tool for authors who sell less than hundreds of thousands of their books. Like me. This latest one had some unusual questions, consequently, replying to them was an intriguing exercise for me. More on that in a few minutes. First, the latest WW ll movie: The Darkest Hour. It’s even better than the reviews- most of them anyway. Gary Oldman is brilliant. The screenplay riveting and enough details of those desperate days to make us awestruck as we view and hear just how close Great Britain came […]
February 4, 2018

Eric Barker’s Tips for Managing Anger

Tips for managing anger- a timely subject? Occasionally, I get stuck when considering what to write for tomorrow. Fortunately, there are other good writers in abundance on line. Eric Barker’s material is always excellent. He provides extensive research material on subjects that intrigue. Because these tips on managing anger are so relevant to this culture where politics appears to be increasingly divisive, his weekly post of a week ago has been copied and pasted below. Hope you enjoy Eric’s 5 tips for managing anger!   Welcome to the Barking Up The Wrong Tree weekly update for January 22nd, 2018. This […]
March 11, 2018

Stanley McChrystal: 9/11 and Leadership

Leadership. Thousands-maybe hundreds of thousands, of books and articles have been written about it. Still the questions abound. Is the leader different from the rest of us? More courageous and selfless? Are leaders more intuitive and creative than most? What are the characteristics that forge trust in those willing to place themselves in harm’s way? Are leaders born or do they emerge during times that beg for persons with quirks and eccentricities only tolerated for the duration of the crisis? Like Lincoln, Churchill and countless others. Despite the conflicting opinions about the genesis of the leader or whether leadership behaviors […]
July 29, 2018

Taking Breaks, Multitasking, Fourteen Hour Days: Work Related Myths

Work related myths like working through lunch and the weekend: Was there a time when you fell for them? Way too busy to take a break? Annoyed with those who did? Considered yourself a master multitasker? Times when you prided yourself on skipping or eating lunch at your desk? Or decided not to take vacation because there was too much work to do? Too many deadlines? These are just a few of the myths I bought into during my first three careers. It was only when I started working for myself, and later writing fiction, when I discovered just how […]